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The Celestial bureaucracy is the pantheon of Chinese mythology. As the name suggests, it is organized similarly to a government administration (patterned after political structures found in the Han dynasty), with the Jade Emperor as the highest-ranking official to whom the other deities must report. The constituents of this bureaucracy are decided in the Underworld, where extremely good souls will rise to heaven. They govern aspects of our world, like weather, fire, famine or epidemics, according to a schedule dictated by the Jade Emperor, who makes the schedule in accordance to the flow of Tao.
Although the celestial officials wield supernatural powers, most of these power comes from the fact that they are representatives of certain aspects of Grand Tao (the ultimate law of the universe).As such, they must exercise their powers responsibly. Failure to do so may disturb the balance of the World, and thus result in retribution, in the Tao's attempt to re-balance itself. Even the Jade Emperor himself is merely an agent of Tao, and can only act on its behalf.
Many notable immortals are included in this pantheon, and one can get into it by applying for a post if you are a rather strong immortal (Xian). Mortals committing a good deed according to Confucian or Taoist values in their mortal lives may be promoted after their death as well. Notable examples includes Guan Yu and Confucius.
It should also be noted that deities in the Celestial Bureaucracy are merely immortals that took on their positions by their free will (albeit with qualifications and/or appointments), rather than being born into the position by bloodline, divine designation and/or destiny. Therefore an immortal could theoretically resign from his position and/or take a different position in a different system (such as becoming a disciple of the Buddha). The deity would lose the powers granted by their position, but they would be relieved of responsibilities at the same time. Supernatural powers gained through their own training and mediation would remain intact. The most notable example would be Sun Wukong the Monkey King, from the popular novel Journey to the West, who resigned from the position of Divine Stable Master to become a lord in his Mountain of Flowers and Fruits.
By celestial law, immortals in the Celestial Bureaucracy may not enter the mortal world or directly interfere with mortal affairs in any way (these are the duties of the mortal emperor). Those that wishes to do so must undergo a reincarnation process so that they could be reborn into a mortal body, and they may then return to the Celestial Court only when their mortal life ends. While mortal, their memories and powers as immortals will be sealed, although they may usually show exceptional strengths and/or traces of special power related to their original roles, due to the existence of the immortal soul in them. If an immortal goes into the mortal world without commencing reincarnation, they immediately becomes outlaws of the Celestial Court and are subject to penalties. It may take a while before they are discovered, but once they do, it usually ends in tragedy. The story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nv is one notable example.
Note that there are spiritual forces higher than the Celestial Court, such as the Tai Shang Lao Jun and the three sacred masters of the Dao.
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